Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany By Susannah Heschel

Daniel Harrington reviews the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life founded in 1939. Its academic director was Walter Grundmann (1906-74).

Grundmann became the institute’s academic director and driving force. In his mid-30s he had been lecturing and writing about “Jesus the Galilean” and drawing parallels between Jesus’ alleged struggle against Judaism and the contemporary German situation. He was a popular teacher and lecturer, and had many contacts in the German academic world. His own teachers included Adolf Schlatter and Gerhard Kittel, very distinguished scholars whose writings were often tinged with anti-Judaism. In his work for the institute Grundmann organized conferences that attracted other scholars, and so widened the institute’s influence. Even when paper was scarce, Grundmann managed to get published his own writings and those of scholars sympathetic to the institute’s goals.

Heschel has a remarkable story to tell. Her reliance on primary sources and her objectivity are impressive. One comes away from her account wondering how such apparently intelligent and learned Christian scholars could have been so foolish and craven. While there were several causes, Heschel’s narrative demonstrates once more the noxious power of Christian theological anti-Judaism, especially among those who should have known better.

1 comment:

Lukas said...

Grundmann died in 1976, not in 1974.